Modern History Simplified: Turns and twists in the politics of Partition in 1940s – Mountbatten plan (June 1947)

Mountbatten plan (June 1947)
  • Attlee’s Statement of February 20, 1947: A deadline of June 30, 1948 was fixed for transfer of power even if the Indian politicians had not agreed by that time on the constitution. That is, the British would relinquish power either to some form of central government or in some areas to the existing provincial governments if the constituent assembly was not fully representative, i.e., if the Muslim majority provinces did not join.
  • Also, Mountbatten would replace Wavell as the viceroy, who was informally given more powers to decide things. Hence Mountbatten proved more firm and quick in taking decisions than his predecessors.
  • The communal riots and the unworkability of the Congress- League coalition compelled the Congress to accept the idea of partition. Hence, the provision of transfer of power to more than one centre was acceptable to Congress because it meant that the existing assembly could go ahead and frame a constitution for the areas represented by it, and it offered a way out of the existing deadlock.
Main Proposals of the Mountbatten Plan 
  1. Punjab and Bengal Legislative Assemblies would meet in two groups, Hindus and Muslims, to vote for partition. If a simple majority of either group voted for partition, then these provinces would be partitioned. In case of partition, two dominions and two constituent assemblies would be created.
  2. Sindh would take its own decision.
  3. Referendums in NWFP and Sylhet district of Bengal would decide the fate of these areas.
  4. Since the Congress had conceded a unified India, all their other points would be met, namely:
    1. Independence for princely states ruled out—they would join either India or Pakistan.
    2. independence for Bengal ruled out.
    3. accession of Hyderabad to Pakistan ruled out
  5. A boundary commission to be set up if partition was to be effected.
  6. Freedom to be declared on August 15, 1947.
Mountbatten’s formula was to divide India but retain maximum unity.

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